Q

Can you pause auto insurance?

A

If you won't be operating your vehicle for 30 days or more, you may be able to pause your liability coverage, but keep comprehensive coverage for the vehicle itself. But there are better ways to lower your car insurance costs.

If you don’t anticipate driving your car in the foreseeable future, you may feel inclined to pause your auto insurance. After all, what’s the point of paying for coverage you’re not going to use?

But while it certainly may sound tempting, you technically can’t “pause” your auto insurance, because you’d lose coverage for yourself and your registered vehicle in the event of a car accident or other damage. Auto insurance is also a legal requirement in most states, so driving without sufficient coverage could mean breaking the law.

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Depending on your auto insurer, you may be able to pause your liability coverage if you won’t be operating your vehicle for an extended period of time. If you pause your liability coverage, you should keep comprehensive insurance to protect the vehicle itself from damage. But this option is only available for drivers who are putting their cars into storage and won’t be driving them at all, and not every insurer will allow you to do this.

Rather than trying to “pause” your auto insurance, you should consider lowering your coverage limits or shopping around for new coverage.

Key Takeaways

  • You generally can’t pause your auto insurance, but you may be able to suspend your liability coverage if you won’t be operating your vehicle for 30 days or more

  • In some states, you may need to file an “affidavit of non-use” at the DMV stating that your currently registered vehicle will not be in use before you can drop liability coverage

  • Instead of suspending part of your insurance, consider reducing your coverage by shopping around for lower rates

Pausing your car insurance

You technically can’t “pause” or “freeze” your auto insurance — it’s required by law in almost every state. The only way to pause your auto insurance is to cancel your coverage in its entirety, which you should only do when you’re switching policies or getting rid of your car.

Some insurers offer the option to suspend your liability coverage if you don’t anticipate using your vehicle for a month or longer — but you would still retain comprehensive coverage for the vehicle itself. Liability coverage is the coverage that covers the costs of damage or injury you cause with your car, and it’s necessary if you’re going to be driving.

But suspending liability coverage isn’t always an option, even if you are putting your car in storage for months: Your lienholder or lessor may require you to maintain a certain amount of coverage, in which case you couldn’t drop your liability coverage. And even if you’re driving less than usual, many insurers do not offer the option of suspending car insurance coverage.

If your car insurance company does allow you to downsize to comprehensive coverage, your liability coverage may be dropped temporarily. Comp-only coverage, also called car-storage insurance or seasonal vehicle insurance, protects your vehicle from non-driving perils like damage from fire, theft, vandalism, falling objects, malicious activity and extreme weather, and is a mandatory minimum if you wish to suspend or reduce your coverage. Reducing coverage to comp-only will not technically “pause” your auto insurance, but it will significantly lower your premiums.

If you decide to operate your car while your liability coverage is suspended (or while you have a lapse in coverage), you won’t be financially protected from medical expenses or property damage you cause with your car, and you risk fines and other consequences for driving uninsured.

There is generally no set time limit on how long you can suspend your liability coverage but you must restore your coverage before you begin driving your car again.

When to pause your car insurance

If you don’t plan on operating your vehicle for 30 days or more and your car insurance company allows it, you can pause your liability coverage until you’re ready to get back behind the wheel. It may be possible to pause your liability coverage if:

  • Your car is in long-term storage

  • You’re traveling abroad

  • Your license is suspended

  • Your car is in need of repair

  • You’ve been deployed overseas

  • You’re unable to drive due to illness or injury

In addition to pausing your auto insurance, you may also need to file an “affidavit of non-use,” notifying your state’s DMV that your vehicle will not be operated for an extended period of time.

Drivers who’ve financed or leased their cars may need to consult with their lienholders or lessors before suspending their liability coverage.

Lienholders are part owners of your vehicle until you’ve paid it off, so they have a stake in which coverage you can and cannot suspend. Similarly, if you’ve leased your car, your lessor may require you to keep your current coverage, meaning that dropping liability coverage wouldn’t be an option.

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Pros and cons of suspending liability coverage

If you’re storing your car away for the foreseeable future and your insurer allows it, you can reap some long- and short-term benefits from suspending your liability coverage, but the decision comes with some cons to consider.

ProsCons
You won't have to pay for coverage you're not usingYou assume the cost of all liabilities if you decide to operate your vehicle without liability coverage
Your vehicle is still protected from damageDrivers with auto loans or leased vehicles may not be eligible for suspended coverage
You can avoid a lapse in coverage, sparing you from an increase in future ratesInsurance suspension is not offered by many auto insurers, in general
You'd probably be breaking the law by driving without liability insurance

What happens if you suspend your car insurance?

If you won’t be operating your vehicle for 30 days or more, you may be able to suspend your liability coverage, so you won’t be paying for that insurance while your car is not in use. However you should still keep comprehensive coverage to protect your vehicle from non-driving perils like fire, falling objects, vandalism and theft. Not every insurance company will allow you to suspend your liability coverage; this option may only be available for drivers who are putting their cars into storage and won’t be driving their vehicles at all.

Alternatives to suspending your car insurance

Looking for a way to lower your car insurance rates? Instead of suspending your liability coverage while your vehicle’s not in use, consider other options to lower your monthly car insurance costs.

1. Reduce coverage

Reducing your coverage can help you save money while you’re not driving. Try lowering your liability limits or removing add-ons like roadside assistance and collision insurance from your policy since you won’t be needing a tire change or postaccident repairs in the next month.

2. Switch to usage-based insurance

With usage-based insurance, you can pay for the miles you actually drive — so if you drive less, you’ll pay less. Some companies offer exclusively usage-based car insurance, but you can also lower your rates by enrolling in a usage-based or behavior-based program and allowing your insurance company to track your safe driving.

3. Remove yourself from coverage

If you’re on a shared policy, the primary named insured can remove you from the coverage which may remove your demographics from the averaged auto premium and lessen the costs. However you may not be able to drive the car once you’ve been removed from the policy.

4. Take advantage of every available discount

Most insurance companies offer a wide range of discounts. Make sure you’re getting every available option to save. Typical discounts include savings for students, and for certain professions, like nurses. You can also get discounts of up to 10% at most insurance companies for going paperless or by paying your annual premium in full. And safe drivers can save even more by having a clean record, or taking a defensive driving course. There are also low-mileage discounts if you’re driving much less than you used to. Check with your insurer to make sure that you’re getting every discount for which you qualify.

Learn more about car insurance discounts

4. Shop around for cheaper car insurance

If your policy is up for renewal, or if you just want to find better rates, you can shop around for cheaper car insurance and secure the coverage you need at an affordable price. You may even be able to find the same coverage you have now at a cheaper rate by comparing quotes online or through an independent broker.

5. Cancel your policy

If you’re getting rid of your car, you can cancel your policy altogether. The process is simple, and can be completed online or over the phone. All you need to do is ask your insurance company about the process, sign and send a cancellation letter, and get a notice of your policy cancellation.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do you need to insure a car that is not being driven?

All registered vehicles must be covered by the state’s minimum amount of liability insurance if you’re going to drive them on public roads. If you own a car that you’re really never, ever going to drive, you may want to look into comp-only coverage, also called car storage insurance, which covers the types of damage that can happen while your car is being stored away and not being driven. But if you’re going to drive your car occasionally, even once a month, you’ll need a car insurance policy that includes liability coverage.

Do you get a refund if you cancel auto insurance?

If you paid in full at the start of your policy and you cancel before the policy term is up, your insurance will refund you the remaining balance on your annual premiums, minus any cancellation fees. But if you pay your premiums month-to-month, you’d only be refunded for the remaining half month if you decide to cancel your car insurance policy after you’ve already paid for that month.

Is it bad to cancel car insurance?

If you stop making payments on your car insurance and your policy is canceled for non-payment, future insurers may consider you a high risk driver and charge you higher premiums as a result. In the worst case scenario, an insurance company may deny you coverage altogether. But if you’re just switching insurance or you’ve sold your car and won’t be driving anymore, it’s fine to cancel your policy. You can cancel your existing car insurance at any time, but if you plan to still drive your vehicle, make sure that you’ve got your next policy ready to go before you cancel your current coverage.